Posts Tagged ‘Jazz’

The Cigarettes – “The Sky’s Not Blue It’s Happy”

There’s no shortage of reissues houses that will dig into their designated corners of the forgotten landscape, but I’ve always admired Anthology for going deep in many directions at once. From surf soundtracks to soft-psych and Swedish legends, the label might not be as cohesive on the surface as others, but their dedication to quality remains a hallmark. This latest is seemingly the beginning of some digital only releases, and its marked as one of the only ones that doesn’t net a lavish physical package, though that shouldn’t reflect on the music itself. The name The Cigarettes was used before (UK punks reissued through Optic Nerve) and surely after this iteration, but this crew from Geelong is worthy of the moniker. The band had another life following the punk and post-punk trail from New York, but they split for the tail end of the ‘70s and wouldn’t reform until the ‘80s.

With few expectations heaped upon their return, the band’s Alan Wright and Mark Gove lead the charge on these recordings and its swerves away from the punk doldrums that might have clogged up their works had they stuck the path without a break. The album works an instrumental approach, slinking through a dirty neon pulse of ‘80s funk and smooth groove. There’s a plastic veneer over their playing that both dates this album instantly and yet also puts it into an odd spectrum of influence that feels reminiscent of recent bands looking to flirt with the past in unexpected ways. That ‘80s heat is all over it, but its not the FM band that we’re talking here. Think late night television, b-movie scores, and wood-paneled clubs with dismal cover charges. This is a nice retrospective from Anthology that speaks to their ability to dig up some of the best of the binned visions of the past.




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Badge Époque Ensemble – “Sing a Silent Gospel”

This week’s just packed with RSTB faves and news of another Badge Époque Ensemble LP is pretty high on the docket. The band’s debut was an undersung jazz-psych odyssey, but it was the last 12” that really caught hold and it was in no small part because of the contribution of vocals from Dorothea Paas, who returns here in a duet with U.S. Girls’ Meg Remy. The band retains their exploratory psychedelic jazz touches, letting poly-rhythmic percussion, cold-sweat organs, and a cool down of sax lead the way. Remy and Paas add a touch of ice water to the veins of the track with banter that’s feeling out the shape of the infinite. For some this might dip into the more ‘adult’-oriented, buttoned-down end of the ‘70s but that’s discounting the smolder that the band creates. Don’t let the smooth taste fool ya, BEE hits hard. This is no lite-jazz parlay, it’s a continuation of filtering deep between Herbie and Stevie and mapping out the outer edges of the soul while they’re at it. The stakes are a bit heavier that on their debut, but with the flute fluttering through the air, I’m down to embark on the journey. The record is out 11/20 on Telephone Explosion.



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Peter Kerlin

I’ve not been shy about my love of Sunwatchers around here, but the band itself is so full of accomplished players that their coming together is only like trying to watch the brightest suns converge before blazing out in a blast of energy. So its only natural that when the members stray solo, that’s worth noting. Bassist Peter Kerlin has cropped up here a few times already this year, not only with Sunwatchers on two releases but also with Brigid Dawson and Bent Arcana. His playing always lends a supple vision to a release and his solo tape Glaring Omission puts him squarely in front. The pieces here show Kerlin working through mastering the eight string bass while overcoming the loss of a friend and the latter component hangs over the pieces in a tumult of emotions and timbres. The cassette’s instrumental passages aren’t quite as turbulent as his work with either Arcana or the Watchers but there’s a subtle internal struggle threaded through the quiet tension of the works here.

Casting in a lovely mix of players including his fellow Solar Motel member Ryan Jewell and Brent Cordero (Psychic Ills, Mike Wexler), the album hardly seems like a tangent from Kerlin’s usual output. The album touches on jazz, kosmiche, and a somber strain of post-rock that’s sublimated into a gaseous haze threaded through a maze of rhythm that sees Jewell and Kerlin shouldering the pulse of the project. Loss, confusion, reclamation and resolve all play out of the six tracks here and Kerlin once again asserts himself as one of the best in the business, whether he’s at the helm or enmeshed in the ensemble.





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Ellis/Munk Ensemble

The folks at El Paraiso rarely miss, and this week another great LP rolls out of the gate. This time label co-head Jonas Munk (Causa Sui) heads Stateside for a collaboration with Brian Ellis (Astra, Silver Sunshine). The duo met up in Brian’s environ of San Diego along with a rotating cast of SD musicians from local psych and jazz circles. Members of Astra, Psicomagia, Monarch, Radio Moscow and Sacri Monti all chip into the sessions and the result is prime ‘70s psychedelic jazz with a touch of cosmic chaos from within German borders. Munk’s leads waver from supple and intricate to beset with a bombast of fuzz that burns down any slink he may have left behind. Ellis pushes the keys towards the prog axis, giving the record that grandiose sense of ‘70s self-aggrandizement that let ELP make gatefold albums about mythological creatures in extended suites. The pair singe the ends of that vibe, letting this filter through electric Miles territory (if only the backing band, eschewing any otherworldly horn transcendence).

Their songs ride a tempest of drums and percolating heat through wormholes that radiate in double vision. The El Paraiso set, and Causa Sui themselves, tend toward the outer edges of psychedelic fusion, but this one’s pacing recent works from Mythic Sunship in terms of letting improvisation take hold and push them through uncharted cosmic territory. Personally, when I was first lapping up jazz in younger years the crossover into psychedelic excess came as a flood of new possibilities and this record brings the feelings swimming back. The sense that the edge is visible but never obtainable ripples through this record. It’s hard to pin down and that’s exactly the point. Drop into this and wander around a while.



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Modern Nature

Right on the heels of their excellent LP from last year, Jack Cooper’s Modern Nature issues a mini-LP that further expands on his grey-streaked pastoral direction. A master of nocturnes, Cooper’s built Modern Nature into a hybrid of psychedelic folk that creeps along the underbrush with a soft footing and jazz impulses that slink through the streets at night breathing tendrils of smoke and steam into the flickering lamplight above. From the coiled confines of “Flourish,” rife with cool discomfort, to the pulsing skitter and deep sighs of “Harvest,” the album pushes Modern Nature’s world beyond the walls that were cobbled on How To Live. While mostly built on the same lineuep, “Harvest” features Kayla Cohen on vocals, and she’s a welcome addition to the focused, twilight shimmer of Modern Nature’s sound.

That sound in particular is what attracts the listener to Annual. What’s most apparent is that this suite of songs all share the same wounded heart. How To Live explored the basis of the sounds that crop up here — the slow amble of piano lines, guitar sway, Jeff Tobias’ foggy sax smears, and the inky slink of brushed drums — but Annual ties the temperament of its songs together in such a way that they feel like a vignette that needs to be cracked over repeated listens. The mini-LP plays out like a single night spent getting one’s head straight after a loss or life upset. The suite is reserved and pensive, never quite letting us get close enough to see how bad the wounds are, or at least doing a good job of covering up the blood that seeps out in emotional ripples, but the hurt can be felt in every note. It’s an excellent companion to the LP and further argument for Modern Nature’s wounded folk strain to continue evolving under a close eye.



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Sunwatchers

Sunwatchers continue their devastating streak of the past few years with an album that becomes the balm and the irritant. Oh Yeah? (a delightful pun on their Cool Brave mascot there) is a reflection of turbulent times and the scream into the ether in which to deal with them all at once. While blunt lyricism has its place, there’s also just as overt a necessity for an album that captures the dozens of daily, weekly, and monthly moments of frustration and repels them with a sonic squall that’s caustic and complete. If our current moment has taught us anything it’s that we’re so often at a loss for words these days that the emotional behemoth of 2020 could only benefit from the rhythmic riot and tectonic fury of Sunwatchers. We can only feel truly alive after the baptism of McHugh’s sunstroke riffs and Tobias’ fevered runs. We can begin to live a little lost in the insistent throb of bass and drums flung far into the trance of abandon.

The band leaves melted tire tracks on the crossroads of psych and jazz — never entirely letting themselves choose a single path. The interplay between the members is symbiotic and psychic. They barrel through the barriers like Pharaoh sitting in with Earthless and then push it through the heart of the sun. Much like the block party burndown happening across the Atlantic in Mythic Sunship, Sunwatchers are smelting liquid chaos and tilting the kettle over the agencies that seek to stifle us all in this age of horrors. Riffs lock in and settle into a layer of hypnotism before they’re torn apart from the DNA on down. The band is, as ever, a socio-political powerhouse with a sense of humor, just the kind of talismans we need in an age when we’d be content to yell into the void, if the void hadn’t come home to stay. This one will shake up your year, so grab a helmet and head on in.



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Karkhana

The arms of Karkhana spread wide and embrace rivulets of noise, experimental eddies, psychedelic jazz, and raga rotations. The band pulls in players from Beirut, Cairo, and Istanbul alongside Montreal’s Sam Shalabai (Land of Kush, Mosasses, Shalabi Effect) for a sound that’s decidedly progressive while adhering to a traditional core of Middle Eastern tones that mesmerize and massage the soul. The overlap with fellow Unrock outfit The Dwarfs of East Agouza is apparent both in the band’s membership and approach. Like The Dwarfs, Karkhana tumbles down darkened alleys of rhythm and sound – polyrhythmic textures and lightning sharp strums dart from all directions. Underneath the group threads sine wave warbles that give off the impression that the songs are being broadcast through dodgy UHF streams, picking up interference from unknown or unwanted sources seeking to dampen their bootleg bounty of musical shred.

Bitter Balls is only the band’s second true album, but they’ve shared sides with Sir Richard Bisiop & David Oliphant and cut a few EPs and live documents that hardly make this indicative of a mere second outing. The band feel well oiled and locked at an instinct level with each other’s improvisations. The noise rolls seamlessly into groove out of nowhere, then dissolves into gnarled wire workings once again, leaving the listener never able to rest their reflexes. Who wants that kind of listen anyway, not when Salabai, Louca, and their cohorts can reform the rarefied air into something sour and sensuous all at once. It’s a prickly record, but one that should interest quite a few who find solace at this site.



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Jeffrey Alexander on Keith Jarrett’s – Restoration Ruin

Among the artists that dominated RSTB last year, Jeffrey Alexander was one of the most prolific, showing up with Dire Wolves (in one of their best yet), on a solo jaunt for Feeding Tube, and playing the RSTB anniversary show with a new group dubbed The Heavy Lidders. The latter featured members of Elkhorn and Bardo Pond laying waste to the blues in fine fashion. In anticipatetion for Dire Wolves’ latest album, on the way next month from Centripetal Force, Jeffrey’s contributed a pick to the Hidden Gems series. Picking out an oddity in the typically jazz-centric catalog of Keith Jarrett, he sheds some new light on an often maligned piece of the artist’s repertoire. Check out how this record came into Alexander’s life and what makes it such a treasure.

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Elkhorn’s Jesse Sheppard on Bruce Palmer’s – The Cycle Is Complete

One of my top picks from last year was, without hesitation, the double LP darkness and light journey of Elkhorn. The double dose of lysergically locked guitars on Elk Jam and Sun Cycle pushed the band beyond anything in their catalog and sets up some pretty high expectations for their upcoming shut-in brainstorm The Storm Sessions. I’ve gotten to run a few shows over the past year with the band’s Jesse Sheppard on the bill and know that he’s not only a consummate musican but also a devoted collector. Naturally I figured he’d be a great fit for the Hidden Gems series and, as such, he has shed some much-needed light on a Buffalo Springfield-adjacent obscurity that sent a bit of a middle finger to the record industry on its release. Check out Jesse discussing Bruce Palmer’s The Cycle is Complete below.

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Charles Rumback on Houndog – S/T

The new collaboration between Ryley Walker and Charles Rumback is a highlight for both artists, but while you might be more familiar with Walker’s extensive output, there’s plenty to dig into with his foil’s career as well. The Chicago percussionist has worked with Jazz trio Colorist alongside John Hughes and Charles Gorczynski and found contemporaries in Fred Lonberg-Holm and Nick Macri in Stirrup. He’s touched through experimental country with The Horses Ha and led his own records exploring jazz under his own name. Rumback’s been a lynchpin in the Chicago scene for over fifteen years and so I asked him to drop in a pick to the Gems series. Interestingly he’s also chosen a collaboration, the late ‘90s team-up of Mike Halby from Canned Heat and David Hidalgo from Los Lobos under the name Houndog. Check out how this came into Charles’ life and the impact it’s had on him.

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